Author – BD Joyce
- Artist: AC/DC
- Album: For Those About To Rock We Salute You
- Year of Release: 1981
- Country: Australia
- Label: Atlantic
- Format: Jewelcase CD
- Catalogue Number: 7567-81463-2
For Those About To Rock We Salute You, the first AC/DC album younger than myself, occupies a curious place within the band’s discography. The seventh (international) release of an extraordinarily prolific 5 year period, it represents the first to be written by a band who had finally reached the top rung of the rock ‘n’ roll ladder that they had sung about on High Voltage. After several years of relentlessly combining large doses of songwriting inspiration with the perspiration of a blue collar Australian work ethic, AC/DC had taken their place alongside Van Halen, Kiss, Black Sabbath and other behemoths of the age, eternally part of a pantheon of greats that can still fill arenas and stadia globally four decades later. The problem, if it can be described as such, was that previous album Black In Black had so effectively been the apex of the band’s development, that For Those About To Rock… could only ever be the first in a still-lengthening line of records that are inevitably worse than what had come before, but presented to a large and rabid fanbase desperate to proclaim the next album as the best yet.
If a band must follow an album as pivotal as Black In Black, however, the title track is the perfect start. For a band that rarely delay gratification for longer than it takes the drummer to count to four, the extended intro, which sounds a little like something The Who would write in one of their more epic moods, ratchets up the tension and excitement to breaking point, before the gloriously stuttering verse riff delivers the payload. Even for a band that has never been shy of holding back on the tempo, it’s a brave move to compose such an obvious attempt at writing a rock anthem at such a crawling pace. Thankfully, it absolutely works, and by the time a cannon is deployed for perhaps the first time as a musical instrument (Running Wild’s Under Jolly Roger not being released for a few more years) it is clear that AC/DC have added another classic to their growing arsenal.
With the exception of the masterful ‘Evil Walks’, which welds a soaring and majestically melodic chorus to brooding minor key verses, in a perfect Frankenstein’s monster combination of their Highway To Hell and Back In Black sounds, the rest of the album doesn’t quite hit the heights hinted at by the opener. Also disadvantaged by a slightly thin and sterile production, the listener is no longer overwhelmed by the familiar and thunderous wall of sound that brought such sonic sparkle to earlier efforts. That’s not to say that it’s not full of head-bobbing riffs (it is), blazing solos (it is), and choruses that pay the first year’s rent up front and take up residence in your cerebellum forever (it most definitely is, especially those found within ‘Let’s Get It Up’ and ‘Inject The Venom’), but as a whole, it just doesn’t have the easy flow and cohesiveness that its predecessor has in spades. It is also front-loaded, the latter part of the album lacking the power and punch of Side A, containing a handful of slightly forgettable songs, and a general lack of variety in terms of tone and tempo.
For Those About To Rock… marks a transition in the career of AC/DC. With the enormous success of Back In Black, a little of the spontaneity and swing, a tiny bit of the alchemy and magic of a rock ‘n’ roll band playing fast and loose and striving desperately to bring their music to the masses was lost forever. Instead we find a highly competent hard rock band, capable of churning out solid albums with stellar singles, moments of brilliance, and never less than a commanding vocal presence from Brian Johnson. It’s a hugely enjoyable album that benefits from repeated listens which reveal the quality of the songwriting, but for possibly the first time in their career, AC/DC do not quite generate the intangible brilliance that allows a record to transcend the sum of its parts. Indeed, For Those About To Rock… is ultimately exactly the sum of its parts, albeit parts which are still gleaming, and in full working order.